In addition to enhancing your bedroom environment, silk pillowcases provide a soft feel that can help with temperature regulation while you sleep. However, taking good care of silk bedding is particularly important, as improper washing can damage the fabric’s sleek texture.

We’ll walk you through step-by-step instructions on how to hand-wash and machine-wash your silk pillowcases, including what products you’ll need to use. We’ll also cover how to dry silk pillowcases and care for them long-term so that you can enjoy them for years to come.

Before You Wash Your Silk Pillowcase

Before washing your silk pillowcases, check the tags for the manufacturer’s care instructions. Some silk bedding can be machine-washed, but other silk materials have labels that say hand-wash or dry clean only.  If the pillowcase specifically says “hand-wash only” or “dry clean only,” follow those instructions to avoid damaging it.

Next, check for any preexisting stains. If you decide to pretreat with detergent, make sure you are using a silk-safe product. Appropriate detergents often are labeled “delicate.” 

Avoid using detergents that contain enzymes meant to break down stains. Stains like blood, sweat, and dairy are protein-based. Since silk is a protein-based material, using an enzyme detergent will break down the fibers and degrade the fabric. Also avoid using harsh powdered detergents, which can leave a coating on the silk fibers. 

How to Hand-Wash Your Silk Pillowcase, Step-by-Step

Hand-washing is the gentlest way to clean silk pillowcases, since it prevents excessive friction on the fibers. You will need a few items to get started:

  • Gentle detergent
  • A sink or basin of cool water
  • A towel

Once you have everything in place, there are a few simple steps you can follow to wash each silk pillowcase.

  1. Pretreat any stains by applying a few drops of detergent to the stain with your finger. Gently massage the detergent into the stain with a circular motion. Avoid scrubbing or pulling the fabric.
  2. Fill a sink or bucket with cool water.
  3. Turn the pillowcase inside out to protect the fabric.
  4. Submerge the pillowcase in the water until completely wet.
  5. Add a few drops of detergent to the water.
  6. Use your hands to gently massage the detergent throughout the fabric. Avoid rubbing the material against itself.
  7. When the pillowcase is clean, rinse the detergent out with cold water.
  8. Press the material between your hands to get rid of excess water, but don’t wring it out. Silk fibers are weaker when wet.
  9. Lay the pillowcase flat on a clean towel. Roll up the towel to absorb excess moisture, then unroll the towel and let the pillowcase lie on top to air dry.

How to Machine-Wash Your Silk Pillowcase, Step-by-Step

If the pillowcase’s label says it can be machine-washed, then it’s probably safe to do so. You’ll follow some of the same practices as with hand-washing, but you will also need a mesh laundry bag. This bag can help prevent the pillowcase from snagging inside the washer. You may also want to use distilled vinegar to remove odors. Be sure to wash silk items separately from other fabrics.

Follow these steps to machine-wash your silk pillowcase.

  1. Similar to the hand-washing process, pretreat any stains by applying a few drops of detergent to the stain with your finger. Gently massage it into the stain in a circular motion.
  2. Place the pillowcase in a mesh laundry bag and close it securely.
  3. Check to see if your washer has a silk setting. If not, choose the delicate setting, and use cool or cold water. Avoid settings with a fast spin cycle, which are more likely to damage the material.
  4. If desired, add half a cup of distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser of the washing machine. This can help deodorize the silk.
  5. Start the washing machine.
  6. When the wash cycle finishes, promptly remove the pillowcases from the machine to avoid wrinkling the fabric.

How to Dry Your Silk Pillowcase

Properly drying your silk pillowcases is just as important as washing them. Because heat can damage silk fibers, it’s best to air dry your pillowcases instead. 

First, roll each pillowcase up in a clean bath towel to remove any excess water. Then, hang the pillowcase on a clothesline, a non-slip hanger, or a drying rack. If you’re using a drying rack, avoid wooden ones, as they can stain silk. Alternatively, you can lay the pillowcases on a flat surface. Be sure to keep your pillowcases out of direct sunlight, which can cause discoloration and fading. 

If a dryer is unavoidable, use the “air” or “no heat” setting for short increments. Don’t use dryer balls or fabric softener sheets. Check your pillowcases every 15 minutes, as silk dries quickly.

Other Tips & Tricks for Your Silk Pillowcase

Silk has qualities that make it a bit trickier to care for than other types of fabric. Its long fibers are incredibly strong, but the absorbent nature of the fibers make the fabric vulnerable to harsh chemicals and handling. To enjoy your silk bedding for a long time,  it’s helpful to know how to properly treat it.

As with other pillowcases, you should wash silk pillowcases every 7 to 10 days. This is particularly important because they come in contact with your face every night.

Store your pillowcases in a cool, dry place when they are not in use. To avoid creasing and weakening the fibers, roll them up instead of folding them. For long-term storage, place them in a breathable plastic bag.

To restore silk’s smooth appearance and feel, you can try washing your pillowcases in a simple solution of one-fourth cup of distilled white vinegar and a gallon of water, following the hand-washing technique. 

A handheld steamer can also work to remove wrinkles from silk. If you don’t have one, use an iron on the lowest heat setting. Use a cloth as a protective barrier between the iron and your pillowcase.

What Makes Silk Different

Silk consists of a natural protein fiber made by silkworm larvae, many of which live in mulberry trees. To manufacture silk fabric, the larvae’s cocoons are harvested, heated, and unraveled before being woven into thread. 

Notable qualities of silk include its breathability, smoothness, and shimmery appearance, all of which make it a common material used in luxury bedding. In contrast to the shorter fibers of cotton and wool, silk’s longer threads give the fabric strength and durability. Silk is also  non-irritating, resistant to mold and mites, and it doesn’t absorb as much moisture from skin and hair as cotton does. 

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